Today’s post comes from Meg Phillips, External Affairs Liaison at the National Archives.
The International Council on Archives (ICA) and the global archives community are celebrating International Archives Week from June 6 to June 10, 2022. The week commemorates the founding of the ICA and gives archivists a time to call greater attention to the importance of archives and the people who work in them. (Read more about the history of the ICA and International Archives Day in this 2017 post.)
The theme for International Archives Week this year is “Archives Are You.” This theme emphasizes that archives document the lives of all of us, of real people, including all the complexity of our experiences. At the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), we hold the records of individuals’ encounters with the federal government, whether that is through the recently released 1950 Census, through the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau, or through the Alien Files (“A-files”) that document many Americans’ immigration experience. In the last few years, NARA has put new focus on reparative description and digitization so that researchers may more easily find the records that document the widest variety of people’s experiences with government.
“Archives Are You” also captures the idea that archivists themselves leave traces on the archives. Archivists make appraisal decisions and choose how deeply to describe different series of records. All people bring their own backgrounds, perspectives, and biases to their work, and archivists are no exception. Acknowledging this helps us make sure we aren’t designing archives that only work for others just like us. The National Archives is here to serve everyone, and we want our services to welcome the widest possible range of people. Both for archivists and researchers, “Archives Are You.”
Concerns about representation of and service to underserved communities are shared by NARA and many other archives in the United States and around the world. Here’s how ICA explains the meaning of “Archives Are You” and the companion hashtag, #ArchivesAreYou:
“Archives represent the professional practices and standards of archivists, but they also affect us as practitioners. #ArchivesAreYou is about understanding how archival practices influence what is in or out of the ‘archival record’, how our practices reflect professional biases and how the records impact us with the stories they tell.”
To celebrate International Archives Week, ICA has made a number of short videos of archivists answering questions about their work, including many that reflect these concerns about inclusion, archival biases, and the role of archives in society. Some are in English, some in Spanish, some in French. Each video is just a couple of minutes long, but together they show NARA’s work in the broader context of archival concerns around the world.
We hope you will join us in celebrating International Archives Week by reflecting with us on the multiple ways that “Archives Are You.”